Sometimes it's difficult to organize all of the emotion and information we have swirling in our heads leading up to fantasy drafts. One way I have come to understand how to make my fantasy football research and intuition actionable is simply by level of commitment. There are players I'm willing to select in most cases at or around their ADP. Some players I am considering when I am on the clock, but often passing on at the moment of truth, and of course others that I'm not even willing to consider. There are players that I know could potentially draw my interest at a future date, but aren't going to spend any resources on right now. In other words, there are players I am marrying, flirting with, and dumping in my draft strategy, and a few names I am keeping in my phone for a possible future engagement.
Thomas is my first choice in the third round of PPR leagues, and maybe even late in the second. He was playing through a debilitating hip injury last year, and the return of Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator means a lot more screen passes, his bread and butter. I have him as an early second round value. Sanders doesn’t provide as much profit, but he will provide a handful of WR1 weeks and low WR2 production overall for a WR3 price. I wish I felt better about the Broncos quarterback elevating the pass offense, but even if they just tread water at the position, both of their receivers should be hits.
Flirt: C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles
Anderson wasn’t worth a first round pick or a third round pick in recent years, but he might be worth a fifth or sixth round pick. He should still lead the backfield in touches in any game he finishes, although it is his inability to stay healthy and in top form for the whole season that has caused him to come up short on returning value, so he’s not an essential get in the mid-rounds. I love taking one last ride with the greats, and since Charles is available in the second half of your draft, it’s not expensive. Maybe his knee is shot. Maybe he’ll just get a few touches a game. You can move on quickly if necessary, but if he finds the eye of the tiger, even if only for a short stretch before the knee gives you, you’ll be happy you have him in PPR leagues, where he should have relevance if the knee is sound.
Dump: Denver QB
I don’t think any of you were planning on including the Broncos quarterback in your draft plans. Just in case, you should know that this battle won’t have a winner as much as a lesser loser. Remember Chad Kelly in your deep dynasty leagues!
Keep Number In Phone: Devontae Booker, De’Angelo Henderson
There’s no reason to draft Booker now that he’s out likely through the beginning of the season with a wrist problem. However, if Charles knee is indeed no good, and Anderson continues with the “it’s always something” career path, Booker should get a shot in a power running game that is much better suited for his abilities. If Booker also goes down, Henderson might not be much of a dropoff and he could be the backup going into the season if Charles doesn’t make the team.
Marry: Travis Kelce
If I can’t get Demaryius Thomas in the third round, Kelce would be my second choice, that is if I haven’t taken Gronkowski in the first already. Kelce went off when Maclin was out last year, and he should have a chance to set career highs across the board. He has a better durability record than most of the other top tight ends and we can’t be sure how high his ceiling is in 2017. I can live without Kelce in the third because there are some attractive options later, but I am including him in my draft plans.
Flirt: Tyreek Hill
Hill is creeping into the fourth round, and could still be a big hit that high because he was a top ten wide receiver once he was worked into the offense last year. He’ll be an even bigger part of the offense this year and can afford some efficiency loss due to volume gain. He has also been looking good in camp. I would love him as my WR3 in the fifth, but as a WR2 in the fourth it’s a closer call compared to players like Golden Tate and Martavis Bryant.
Smith… yawn. You were really with him to dump him. I won’t be shocked if Pat Mahomes is the quarterback at some point this year. Hunt is now going in the 8th/9th round and I just don’t see Spencer Ware going away that easily. Hunt is a good talent, but he can’t blow Hunt away in the same manner that the first and second-round draft pick running backs can, and Ware is better-suited for goal line duty. Wide receiver and quarterback look like better positions to target around where he is going. Ware was basically an RB1 before his concussion last year, and he could easily come out of the gate like that this year, albeit with better competition for touches in Kareem Hunt. He could also be in a committee with Hunt that makes it more difficult to get anything other than matchup flex value out of him. I won’t take him over the likes of Danny Woodhead in PPR or Dalvin Cook/Ameer Abdullah.
Keep Number In Phone: None
This is going to remain a limited ceiling offense as long as Alex Smith is the quarterback. They do have continuity on the offensive line and won’t miss Jeremy Maclin, but I don’t expect to rush to the wire for a secondary receiver or Charcandrick West if injuries create opportunity here.
Los Angeles Chargers
Marry: Tyrell Williams
Williams was a 1000+ yard receiver last year in his second season despite going undrafted. He also played through a shoulder injury for a good part of the second half of the season. If you can get him as your 4th/5th wide receiver in the ninth round, you’ve done very well.
Rivers has a bit of a rough start if you are looking to him as a cheap QB1. Denver, Kansas City, and the Giants all appear in the first five weeks. He might be a better mid-season trade target, but over the course of the year he should still outperform his ADP.
I understand if you are married to Allen in the third. He won’t get the target volume that justified a pick in the late first/early second last year, but he is also an ascendant talent with a great quarterback. Allen should be the clear #1 target and provide some WR1 weeks while delivering a strong WR2 baseline.
Gordon vs. McCoy is a tough call on my board when I am looking running back in the second half of the first round. Gordon doesn’t have any major competition for touches and will likely get more touchdown chances, but McCoy should be the more prolific receiver and just played better last year (no knock on Gordon, but McCoy was clicking with the Bills running game). I don’t have any reservation about Gordon in the second half of the first round, but I rarely take him over McCoy.
The Chargers are going to use both of these tight ends this year. Gates will get fewer snaps, but when he is on the field, he’s still likely to be targeted. He is still getting drafted, but is only a streaming tight end at best and not worth a Week 1 roster spot except in best ball leagues. Henry is being drafted around the 9th/10th, which implies expectations of a breakout, a breakout that is unlikely with Gates still on the roster.
Keep Number In Phone: Travis Benjamin
Benjamin is going undrafted in some leagues. He is having a good camp now that he’s healthy and is in his second year with the Chargers. He and Williams should more of a 2 and 2A than #2 and #3, and he’ll be the top deep target for Philip Rivers. He might not have a great week 1 vs. Denver, so waiting until Week 2 to snag him for nothing on the waiver wire might be the best angle, but drafting him late in deep leagues also makes sense.
Marry: Marshawn Lynch
A cornerstone of my fantasy philosophy is that we should take players we love. Maybe I am overly influenced by that in this selection, but Lynch is also inheriting a situation that Latavius Murray turned into low RB1 numbers last year. So far all of the reports are positive on Lynch in camp (let’s just get Donald Penn there soon). Remember Murray did this with two other backs getting over 100 touches, so Lynch doesn’t have to get back to his Seattle workload to return low RB1 numbers on an RB2 investment.
Flirt: Michael Crabtree
Crabtree isn’t as big of a value as he was last year, now going in the 4th/5th. There are receivers with similar floors but less risk on losing market share on their team in that tier like Golden Tate. There are receivers with a much higher ceiling in that tier like Tyreek Hill and Martavis Bryant. It’s not that I think Crabtree is a bad pick at ADP, and if he reproduces his 2016, he’ll be profitable at that cost. I just have different wideout targets in that area.
Carr is getting the young quarterback on the rise bump, and that’s too much of a premium to pay at the ultra-deep position. I can’t justify taking him before Russell Wilson, Marcus Mariota, or Andrew Luck, and that appears to be happening in a lot of drafts. Cooper is being drafted in the mid-second, or near his ceiling. And at a level he hasn’t sniffed yet. This approach (overpaying for the young receiver by projecting the breakout season) worked with Mike Evans last year, but Evans didn’t have a #2 like Crabtree or goal-line back like Lynch to cut down on his weekly ceiling. One of these years Cooper will arrive for fantasy, but his second-half fades and lack of red zone touches combined with the state of this team makes me think it won’t be this year.
There is a faction in the fantasy community that believes Lynch will be a bust. If you tend to side with that line of thought, you need to either reserve a late-round pick for one of the dynamic duo behind Lynch, or be ready to pounce on the waiver wire. Neither would be a true feature back if Lynch were to go down, but both would be upside PPR flex plays - a Theo Riddick/Ameer Abdullah style combo, but more balanced. Richard outplayed Washington for a lot of 2016, and he might have the edge between the two, but it could also be settled later this summer and fluid after that.